Sociological Imagination and Its Importance
The sociological imagination is a theory that links the behavior of an individual at the micro level to the society in which he/she lives, at the macro level. The concept was introduced by the American sociologist C. Wright Mills in 1959 and was defined as the awareness of the connection existing between one’s personal experience and the wider context provided by the community (Plummer, 2016).
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Today, scholars give numerous definitions of sociological imagination that best suit their domains of research. However, the major commonality is that it is now perceived not as a theory but rather as an outlook of society allowing an individual to review his/her biography and to find some traces of historical and social processes in it (Plummer, 2016). Another way to define sociological imagination is to interpret it as the way our actions bring about certain social outcomes: Collective activities lead to the appearance of norms, values, blueprints, etc. On the other hand, the influence is reciprocal: When we create the social context, the society (as well as the country and time period), in turn, shapes our thoughts and directs our actions (Agnew & Duncan, 2014).
The sociological imagination is highly important as it encourages one to look at any situation from an alternative perspective and to discover things that could not be discerned using routine thinking. Furthermore, it allows establishing cause-effect relationships between seemingly unrelated issues and explaining why a person acts in this or that way. The sociological imagination is the most effective way to investigate the structural arrangement of society and analyze the significance of each separate action upon the entire community. Besides, using sociological imagination helps discover the roots of certain individual and social problems, which makes it easier to solve them (Plummer, 2016).
Without sociological imagination, self-aware decisions taking into account a third party perspective are hardly possible. Lack of this kind of imagination may be dangerous as people are unable to see the situation from another angle: This happens, for example, when political leaders impose their own morality hiding atrocious crimes that they actually commit (the case of Nazi) (Mudge & Chen, 2014).
One of the most demonstrative examples proving the necessity and significance of sociological imagination in my personal life is connected with the herd mentality that I had to overcome. This concept describes the extent to which our behavior is affected by other people’s actions and views. In many cases, we tend to believe that the most widely accepted opinion is correct even if there is no evidence supporting this claim. In my case, it was connected with drinking tea.
As many of my peers, I believed that this is a perfect way to maintain good health while performing a popular ritual that gives a sense of comfort, stability, and relaxation. Moreover, drinking tea is also a perfect social activity that fosters communication with other people: Meeting for tea has long become a traditional pretext to see another person.
For quite a considerable period of time, I shared this attitude without giving myself trouble to analyze what real impact the habit of drinking tea really produces upon my health. I was always deluded by the common belief that unlike coffee tea is harmless for all body systems. However, when I had a closer look at the problem, I realized that my insomnia and increased blood pressure were attributed to drinking tea in the evening and at night. Since it contains a lot of caffeine (some sorts are even more caffeinated than coffee), it prevented me from sleeping normally and gave me certain heart problems.
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Thus, this case proved to me that herd mentality is dangerous whereas sociological imagination is crucial for finding out your mistake and correcting it in due time.
Agnew, J. A., & Duncan, J. S. (2014). The power of place (RLE social & cultural geography): Bringing together geographical and sociological imaginations. London, UK: Routledge.
Mudge, S. L., & Chen, A. S. (2014). Political parties and the sociological imagination: Past, present, and future directions. Annual Review of Sociology, 40(1), 305-330.
Plummer, K. (2016). Sociology: The basics. London, UK: Routledge.